Deserts, Dinosaurs, and Mountains
A ride to Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, Nevada


The Tuesday after Memorial Day, 2006, I left home on the San Francisco Peninsula about 7:30am to meet my brother, Eric, and his friend Russ. We were planning to ride out to Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park near Gabbs, Nevada, and camp overnight at the Park. I was riding my Kawasaki ZR-7S, Eric was riding a Kawasaki KLR 650, and Russ was riding a BMW F650 Dakar. The plan was for the 3 of us to meet in Cordelia, CA at 9:00.

Day 1
For a map of my route to the park Click here.

The ride to Cordelia was uneventful, it was all freeway through light rush hour traffic. I was lucky, I was riding the main rush hour traffic, I was heaed out of town while most everyone else was headed in. After meeting in Cordelia, we rode east on Highway 80 through Sacramento and on to Truckee, where we turned off the highway and rode around part of the north shore of Lake Tahoe before heading east to Virginia City, NV. The roads from Truckee to Virginia City were mostly windy mountain 2 lane highways with long, graceful curves. As we left the Lake Tahoe area, there was still snow on the ground. But farther east, well before we arrived in Virginia City, the roads dropped down to lower elevations and we were riding in the Nevada high desert.

Getting ready to leave from Cordelia, CA

Heading east from Lake Tahoe

We had a warm Welcome when we arrived in Virginia City, NV
Eric was checking to see if he remembered to bring his bowling ball.
Damn, left it at home.

Downtown Virginia City, NV

From Virginia City, we continued east on Highway 50 to Fallon, NV. Highway 50 was mostly a straight run east. As we rode east from Fallon, in the skies above us, you could see some F-16 and F-15 fighters practicing some pretty fancy aerobatics as they chased each other around the sky - it was pretty cool watch, if for only a short time.

From Highway 50 we turned south on Highway 361 towards the town of Gabbs. The main business in Gabbs is the large mining operation we saw as we approached the town. They mine Magnesite-Brucite ore (minerals containing magnesium) in Gabbs.

Highway 50 east of Fallon, NV

The road into Gabbs

From Gabbs, we rode the last 23 miles to the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park. The last 2 miles on road leading to the park were unpaved, as are all the roads in the park. At the park entrance is the ghost town of Berlin and the old mining operations. All the buildings are in fairly good conditions for a ghost town. It is easy to walk up and look into all the old homes and buildings, and there are signs describing the history of the buildings.

Further up the road we found a campsite for the night. We set up camp, cooked dinner, and enjoyed a peaceful night. The park and campstes are located at about 7,000 feet elevation.

The Park Entrance

The ghost town of Berlin, NV

The road going past the old mining operations, on the way to the campsites and visitor's center

Yes, there are some twisty roads in the park.

Our campsite.

Dinner time!!

Day 2
For a map of my route home Click here.

The next morning we broke camp and rode up to check out the Ichthyosaur display and visitor's center. The visitor's center was closed, but we could still look in the windows to see the Ichthyosaur fossils and read the desriptions of the fossils and about their discovery. Ickthyosaurs were giant air breathing marine reptiles that resembled fish or dolphins. Ichthyosaur means "fish lizard"

Ichthyosaurs were big.

We left the park around 9:30 and headed back towards Gabbs, then south to Highway 95. When we arrived at Highway 95, Eric and Russ turned east to ride to Moab, Utah where they were going to join up for a dual sport meet. I had to head home to get home in time for some activities related to my daughter's high school graduation.

On Highway 95, I turned west to Hawthorne, NV. The ride through high desert into Hawthorne was fast. Hawthorne is home to an ammunition plant and there are many ammunition bunkers located around the town. There are also some interesting signs posted around town directing truckers carrying explosives. Just to the north of Hawthorne is Walker Lake.

The Highway going south out of Gabbs, NV

A warning sign in Hawthorne, NV

Walker Lake, Nevada

North of Hawthorne near Shurz, NV I turned west and started my ride into the Sierra Nevada mountains. The ride west started by passing through low hills and farmland, but soon I entered the mountains of the Sierras and crossed Monitor Pass before heading up Highway 4 and Ebbetts pass. It was here I had one of the most unbelievable riding experiences ever. Crossing Monitor and Ebbetts Passes the scenery was spectacular, the weather was fantastic, the roads were clear, and the roads through the mountains were almost devoid of cars. The ride across the pass was just one turn after another of magnificent scenery.

Near Monitor Pass

Monitor Pass

Ebbets Pass

After the fantastic ride across both Monitor and Ebbetts Passes was truly memorable. But I still had to get home. I said my good-byes to the Sierras and rode through the western Sierra foothills on my way home. When I got back to California's central valley I again, I had to deal with traffic and crappy cage drivers. I tried to remember the great 2 day ride I just had and didn't let it bother me.